More than 200 million. That is the number of roses typically produced for Valentine’s Day each year. Whether single-stemmed or by the dozen, roses are symbolic of love and affection – an apt gift for a holiday devoted to those exact emotions. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of a rose bouquet in mid-February – or any other time of the year – there are a few tips that will prolong the enjoyment of these special flowers.

Roses in vase

With the proper care, your cut roses can shine for up to a week or more.

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

Wrapped roses

Bouquets received in a sleeve should be placed in water immediately.

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

Mixing floral preservatives

Mix the packet of floral preservative according to the instructions.

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

Cutting rose stems

Remove 1-2 inches from the base of the stem. If possible, make the cut just above a node (where the leaflet is attached to the stem).

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

Removed leaves from stems

Remove any leaves from the stem that would otherwise be submerged under the water in the vase.

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

Your roses may be delivered in at least four different ways:

  • Bunched and “wrapped” in a cellophane sleeve
  • In a box, where each stem may be inserted into a plastic water tube
  • In an arrangement, using floral foam to support the stems
  • Arranged in a vase filled with water

In the latter two cases, you simply need to change the water every other day; however, if your flowers aren’t arranged yet, you can significantly affect the vase life of your flowers with proper handling. If you don’t follow these steps, your flowers will probably only last for 4-5 days. But if you do follow this advice, you can likely expect to enjoy your flowers for at least 7-10 days.

  1. Remove any plastic water tubes, as well as any rubber bands and cellophane. Look for the packet of floral preservative (which is usually included with the flowers).
  2. Prepare floral preservative according to the directions on the packet. Do not use more water than recommended – that will only dilute the solution, making it less effective.
  3. Remove at least 1-2 inches of the stem, using a sharp knife or pruning shears. (Cut more if necessary to make the stems the appropriate length for your vase.)
  4. Remove any leaves that will be under water in the vase. Leaves left in the water promote bacterial growth. You may have seen this before when throwing out old cutflower bouquets – leaves that have been submerged often become slimy and smelly (the water, too).
  5. Immediately place the roses in a clean vase with the water/floral preservative solution. (Hopefully there won’t be many thorns. If there are, you may want to remove any that could get caught on leaves as you begin designing your arrangement.)
  6. Place your arrangement away from any heat source (like a radiator, television or stove top) and out of direct sunlight. Even though flowers, especially roses, need lots of sunlight to mature, once the stems are cut, sunlight will encourage the blooms to open faster, decreasing the time you can enjoy your bouquet. (Of course, if you’re given roses with tight buds and want to encourage them to open, a warm, sunny environment will do the trick.)
  7. Check the water level daily, but don’t just add water, as you would for a potted plant. The vase water must be replaced with a clean solution, especially if you notice that the water your flowers are sitting in has become cloudy (a sign of bacterial growth). If the water becomes yellow and cloudy, it’s a good idea to recut the stems before putting them in a vase of fresh water. Bacterial growth in the old water may have clogged the stems, prohibiting uptake of the fresh water.

It’s quite disappointing if even one of your special roses succumbs to bent neck. Though this may sound like a chiropractic term, “bent neck” happens when the stem droops or bends just below the flower head, prior to the bloom fully opening. In most cases, there’s little you can do to prevent bent neck. The cause is most likely a vascular occlusion or an air embolism (an air bubble in the stem) shortly after harvest that prohibited water uptake.

There is one trick for rose resuscitation that may or may not work, depending on the condition of the rose, but it’s easy enough that it’s certainly worth trying: Run a couple inches of warm water in your sink or tub. Lay the rose horizontally in the water, recutting the stem under the water. Leave the rose in its bath for a couple hours as the water cools. Then put the rose back in a vase and assess your efforts. If it’s still not acceptable for display, you can preserve it by drying it: Simply hang it upside down in a dark, dry area (like in a closet) and let it dry naturally for a couple weeks.

Roses are indeed a special gift, and they should be given the extra care they need to brighten your day – and not just on the day you receive them. Keep caring for them as the days go on, and the memory behind receiving the flowers in the first place will continue to bloom as wonderfully as your roses themselves.